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>About this Guide 
>Table of Contents

1.  What you can do
2.  Water
3.  Ecology
4.  Amphibians
5.  Environmental Issues
6.  Keystone species
7.  Get Wet!-
     Field Study Ideas

8.  The Zoo Experience
9.  Frogs & Friends
10. Case Studies
11. Resources
12. Glossary


:: What you can do! :: Toronto Zoo- Working for Wetlands ::

There is nothing more empowering than feeling that your actions have, in some way, helped to achieve a goal. If your students gain only two thoughts from this activity guide, ensure they are "Like all life, amphibians are important" and "This is a global problem, but my actions in the community will help".

Here are some ideas for actions that you, your class, school, community, or individual students and their families, might undertake. (Note: The addresses for these and other organizations are included in Unit 12: Resources):

In brief you might....

  1. Adopt a local pond; protect and preserve existing habitat.
  2. Restore degraded wetlands so that amphibian populations can remain.
  3. Create a pond. In some places, this may be the only place that will ensure the survival of amphibians in your community.
  4. Raise funds to donate to an organization involved in wetland conservation.
  5. Learn more about wetlands and share this knowledge with others.
  6. Take part in an Amphibian Monitoring Program.
  7. Speak out - voice your concerns about wetland destruction to the local media, to government, or to others who can help you to create change.
  8. Share your ideas and experiences with others.

For example...

1. Adopt a local pond; protect and preserve existing habitat.

Local wetlands need someone to champion their cause and that may be you. Programmes like the Toronto Zoo's Adopt-a-Pond are good sources of ideas. Adopt-a-Pond was created to promote the preservation, restoration and creation of wetlands. More than 1,200 schools have participated in the programme to date, but it is hoped that 4,800+ Ontario schools will take part. Participating groups receive Adopt-a-Pond Certificates of Appreciation and frog decals for each participating student and teacher. Exercise 5.9, Getting the Job Done - Adopt a Pond, will help you to look at different ways that you might chose to become involved. Your class may chose to pursue any one of these exciting ideas but its important to remember that all of these begin with a simple commitment. Activity 5.12, Pond Pledge, allows students to verbalize this commitment to protect a local wetland and wetlands in general. A  "Pond Pledge" is included, which you may photocopy.

2. Restore degraded wetlands so that amphibian populations can remain.

Wetlands become degraded for many reasons, such as the introduction of exotic species that can destroy the natural habitat, or the dumping, intentionally or not, of toxic waste and/or garbage. But, degraded wetlands can be restored. Ian Naisbitt, an environmental studies teacher at Concord School in Windsor was prompted to action after reading "Habitat 2000, Act Today for Wildlife in the Year 2000", a study unit distributed by the Canadian Wildlife Federation and created by the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment Canada, and the Ministry of Education. Mr. Naisbitt felt that his students and their communities could make a difference. This 1989 "before restoration" picture of Little River shows the challenging task that faced them.

Over the years, great changes have taken place in the Little River Wetlands due to the co-operation and painstaking work of many individuals. "Cleanup Crusades" have removed tonnes of human discards (over 100 car tires, stoves, a washing machine, cans, plastics, toys and rusted parts of automobiles). Plans were developed to rehabilitate the stream and restore the wildlife habitat. Ponds were created and over 12,000 trees were planted in the River's watershed. The "Little River Enhancement Group" (Lil' Reg, for short) has continued its efforts, developing nature trails, tours, information packages and educational resources.

Look around your community, perhaps there is a wetland that needs rehabilitating or there may be a project already underway that you can join. Look in the Resource section of this manual for organizations you might contact. Here are a few leads:

"Yes In My Back Yard: A guide to rehabilitating urban streams", Laurie Fretz, The Conservation Council of Ontario, 506 - 489 College Street, Toronto, ON M6G 1A5

"The Urban Outback: A Guide to Creating Frog-Friendly Backyards", Adopt-A-Pond, c/o Toronto Zoo, 361A Old Finch Ave., Scarborough, ON M1B 5K7

3. Create a pond. In some places, this may be the only place that will ensure the survival of amphibians in your community.

In some places amphibian populations have lost their natural breeding ponds but it is possible to provide new ponds that will help to create a suitable habitat. Rob Ferguson, a teacher at R.H. Cornish School in Port Perry, worked with students in his school to create wildlife garden and a pond in a place that had previously been used to pile ice and snow scraped off the school's parking lot. Their work create a beautiful new look for their school and community and later many students created their own wildlife ponds at home! If you are interested in finding out more about their experiences the entire issue of "Amphibian Voice", March 1993 is devoted to telling their story.

If you want to create you own pond you need to think about the type of wetlands that you should be creating for the local environment and the kind of species you are likely to attract. The wetland at R.H. Cornish School works because it is suitable for the Port Perry landscape and the local amphibian species. Their wetland will be different from everyone else's. If every school in Ontario developed or renewed their own wetland, we would create 5,000 different special communities.

For more information about creating ponds see: "The Urban Outback: A Guide to Creating Frog-Friendly Backyards", produced by the as Adopt-a-Pond Programme.

Greenhouses, such as Picov's Water Centre and Fisheries, have pond kits available to install for school yard naturalization projects (see Resource section for addresses).

CAUTION: Please make sure that the kit you chose is suitable for wildlife. The pond must be big enough to attract amphibians, deep enough in the centre to allow them to escape predators such as crows, snakes, and raccoons and yet still have sides that will allow amphibians to get in and out of the pond without becoming trapped.

4. Raise funds to donate to an organization involved in wetland conservation.

Funding is important to every organization. Funds raised by community groups, schools and individuals not only help non-profit groups to buy the things they need, but these funds are tangible examples of community support. You might raise funds to adopt an acre of wetland from the Nature Conservancy, a frog from the Toronto Zoo, or to donate to a local wetland conservation project like Project Paradise.

The communities of Burlington, Hamilton and Dundas are working together to restore Cootes Marsh, a large freshwater marsh under the protection and management of the Royal Botanical Garden as part of Project Paradise. Of the original 250 hectares of wetland, only 25 hectares remain vegetated because of the impact of urbanization and the damage caused by the invasion of a non-native fish, pollution-tolerant carp.

Community and school groups are working to rehabilitate Cootes Marsh by: 1) improving water quality, 2) altering the fish community to include pike, bass, and perch, 3) provide spawning, nursery and adult fish habitat, 4) recovering lost wetlands to restore aquatic plant communities and create habitats for shorebirds, waterfowl, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, and to create and enhance trails, boardwalks and viewing towers. For more information about this project and how you might become involved contact the Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Road West, Burlington, ON L7T 4H4.

Activity 5.2, Are You From Around Here? provides students with the chance to learn a bit more about the impact of introducing of non-native species into aquatic ecosystems.

5. Learn more about wetlands and share this knowledge with others.

This manual and other sources listed in Unit 12: Resources provide students with the chance to learn more about wetlands. Of course, one of the most exciting ways to explore wetlands is to visit one, to get your feet wet, and to study the life you find there. There are many exercises throughout this manual, such as Exercise 5.1, I Never Really Wanted to Say Goodbye, and unit 7. Get Wet! - Pointers for Field Studies, that will help your students to explore wetlands.

6. Take part in an Amphibian Monitoring Program.

As discussed earlier, there is a great need for information about the health and range of our amphibian populations. Activity 5.11, Look What I Found provides students with the opportunity to observe amphibians, to record their findings, and to submit these findings as part of a larger study. Older students or other interested community members might be interested in making a longer-term commitment to one of the monitoring programmes, such as the "Backyard Frog Surveys" and "Amphibian Road Call Counts" carried out by the Canadian Wildlife Service and outlined in 5. Environmental Issues, Monitoring Amphibian Populations.

7. Speak out - voice your concerns about wetland destruction to the local media, to government or other who can help you to create change.

Whenever you chose to speak out on a subject it is important that you understand the issues involved and that you are aware of the other arguments that might be put forth. Twelve-year-old Gregory Kachmar of Burlington understands this. He was able to save local wetland from development by collecting data and presenting it to local planners, which single-handedly changed attitudes in the his community.

Activity 5.7, Wetlands Debate, provides an opportunity for students to look at a fictional case study and to present the differing points of view. Extension 2 in the exercise offers them the opportunity to look at a local issue, such as the creation of a new landfill or the development of a new suburb or cottage area, and develop ways to help their community to make the best decision possible regarding changes that might affect a local wetland.

8. Share your ideas and experiences with others.

You and your students may have ideas or experiences of your own that you would like to share with other school groups. The Toronto Zoo's Adopt-a-Pond Programme produces a newsletter, "Amphibian Voice", that provides an exchange among schools and students taking part in the Adopt-a-Pond Programme. The newsletter contains interesting amphibian tales, important facts, student stories/poems and photographs of special projects undertaken around the province. Send your submissions to: "Amphibian Voice", Adopt-a-Pond Programme, Toronto Zoo, 361A Old Finch Ave., Scarborough, ON M1B 5K7

:: What you can do! :: Toronto Zoo- Working for Wetlands ::

The Toronto Zoo is a large, world-class zoo whose primary goals include education, conservation, and research. The "Adopt-a-Pond Programme", described earlier, is an obvious part of the Zoo's efforts in "working for wetlands" but the Toronto Zoo works on wetland conservation in many ways, addressing both local and international concerns.

Minimizing impact on local wetlands

One of the first wetland conservation considerations relates to minimizing Toronto Zoo's impact on the local environment, the Rouge River Valley, which lies partially within its boundaries. For example, excess nutrients can cause pollution (see Exercise 2.8, Just a Pinch (question 6) and Unit 5). At the Zoo, excess nutrients can come from the run-off from the tonnes of animal waste produced on-site or from the Zoo's large composting operations. To counteract this, the Zoo has worked on a number of solutions:

  • manure bins are established on cement pads minimizing the potential for nutrients finding their way into the waterways or into the ground water
  • the run-off from manure bins drains into sanitary sewers not into the natural wetlands
  • manure is shipped off-site and converted into soil additives, such as "Zoo Poo", processed by a private company
  • run-off from the composting operations is contained in a bermed retention pond

Water conservation

It is easy to understand that the Zoo uses a large volume of potable water when you realize that a single elephant consumes 62,000 litres of water each year! However, the Zoo staff work to reduce the site's water demands wherever possible. For example, the artificial waterway flowing through the Zoo has been enlarged to act as a storage area for rainwater. This water will be used to supply the Zoo's irrigation system.

Naturalization of Zoo site and waterways

In recent years, Zoo staff have worked on a number of projects to improve and rehabilitate the natural habitats within its boundaries. The amount of mowing has been reduced, allowing existing wild plants to take hold and thrive. Native species have been planted throughout the site, including aquatic species like cat-tails, arrowhead and pickerel weeds. In general, "naturalization" improves the habitat for wildlife and creates corridors for wildlife to move safely throughout the Zoo. More specifically, wetland plants reduce erosion, they clean the water by trapping sediments and nutrients, and they provide food and shelter for wetland animals.

A "Wetland Habitat Demonstration Area" has been developed with funding support from Ducks Unlimited. These wetlands, near the Polar Bear exhibit, form part of the artificial waterway that runs through the Zoo. Here, shallow marshes are designed to trap sediments and nutrients from surface run-off and temporary ponds to hold the overflow from stormwater run-off.

Educating About Wetlands and Wetland Conservation

The Zoo has been involved in a special partnership with Ducks Unlimited, a private, non-profit conservation organization, since 1994. The "Wetland Demonstration Area", described here and in Unit 8 (page ???) is part of this education and conservation effort. In addition, a large section of the Americas Pavilion is devoted to interpreting the wetlands of Ontario.

Involvement in Community Wetland Conservation Efforts

The Toronto Zoo and members of its staff actively participate with the community in local conservation efforts. For example, the Morningside Tributary is located on Zoo property and once supported a health population of Red-sided Dace, a nationally threatened species. The Zoo is working in co-operation with local governments to conserve this tributary and to alert the local community to the plight of this fish and other species. The Zoo is also an active partner in The Rouge Park, an urban wilderness conservation effort, encompassing the Rouge River wetlands and preserving representative populations of Carolinian species at the northern limit of their range.

Commitment to the Conservation of Wetlands and Wetland Species Internationally

At the Zoo there are representative wetland species from around the world. The Zoo's conservation activities include such activities as the captive breeding and reintroduction of endangered species (e.g. the Puerto Rican Crested Toad (see Unit 10: Case Studies, The Puerto Rican Crested Toad - A Species Survival Plan) and research into the reproduction of African cichlids, a fish that was once the primary food source for 30 million people.)

To find out more about the Toronto Zoo, see Unit 8. The Zoo Experience or refer to the enclosed brochure for information about the Zoo's many educational resources and programmes.

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